Saturday, July 13, 2024

Removal of 58 shade-giving trees raises the ire of a neighborhood

Real de Mayorazgo is a narrow, winding street that takes you through Colonia Xoco, a Mexico City neighborhood that feels like a quaint pueblo in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

It is the home of the Cineteca Nacional, where you can see movies from around the world for 50 pesos or less. It’s also home to dozens of shops, street vendors, three EcoBici bikeshare stations, and at its western end, the Coyoacán Metro and Centro Coyoacán shopping center.

There’s a constant flow of people squeezing past each other on its small sidewalks.

On Saturday, May 4, employees of the new luxury tower Mitikah illegally cut down 58 trees from Real de Mayorazgo. Their plan is to construct a parking ramp beneath the street.

If you walk down Real de Mayorazgo now, the first thing you notice is the sun. What was once a pleasantly shady promenade is now a blazing hot stretch of sun-baked concrete. The stumps, ugly reminders of the 80-year-old trees that once stood, are witness to Mitikah’s actions.

As the tower rises so the trees come down.
As the tower rises so the trees come down.

Someone has scrawled “Mitikah killed me” on each one with a black Sharpie. Other neighbors have left flowers, as one would in a cemetery.

The construction of a new luxury tower in Xoco has been controversial from the start. Walking around the neighborhood, you find dozens of printed signs that read “Mitikah: There is no roadway, no water and no more space! Neighbors of Coyoacán: spread the word!”

Apart from the noise and the traffic that come with a large construction project, the neighbors fear for their water supply. Mexico City’s water problems have been felt here many times before, and Xoco residents are not convinced that there will be enough water for them and the tower.

Mexico City has more social infrastructure than just about any other city in the country. This is especially true in the south of the city. Parks, exercise equipment and bike lanes are all placed continually throughout the area. Art installations, like outdoor sculptures, also help make the city more beautiful and walkable.

The simplest and most elegant social infrastructure, however, are trees. Trees are the life of any neighborhood. They give birds a place to nest and sing. Trees provides shade from the blazing Mexican sun. This increases street traffic. More street traffic means more customers for street vendors.

This was especially true on Real de Mayorazgo, where local merchants sold everything from organic coffee and popcorn to lipstick and sunglasses. Many of those merchants have now packed up and gone to shadier streets. Others continue there, wearing large hats and sunglasses to provide some protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

A boulevard of stumps.
A boulevard of stumps.

Residents of Xoco gathered on the corner of Real de Mayorazgo and Avenida Universidad last week. They carried large signs accusing Mitikah of ecocide and “Xococide,” demanding that the city revoke their construction permits.

Large color pictures of before and after show the marked effect the lack of trees has on this main thoroughfare. Many also blame the borough of Benito Juárez for their slow response and failure to stop the cutting.

While employees of Mitikah claimed they had permits to cut the trees down, they never showed their permits and were allowed to cut down every tree.

The Mexico City government has promised to fine Mitikah up to 50 million pesos (US S $2.6 million) and has jailed the nine employees who cut the trees down.

Xoco residents are not satisfied. Levying fines and jailing the workers who cut the trees on their boss’s orders will not affect the developers. They will continue to fund and develop their luxury tower. The money levied by the government cannot replace the trees.

Mitikah put up a large sign on one of the trailers outside the construction site. At the top, it reads “Mitikah, Living City, contributes to the harmony of its environment.”

There are several paragraphs of text describing planned green spaces and a water collection and filtration system, accompanied by a rendered image of a plaza. At the bottom, large text proclaims, “At Mitikah, our neighbors are our priority. We’re here to listen to you.”

Someone has already defaced the sign. For the residents of Xoco, actions speak louder than words.

The writer lives and works in Mexico City.

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